Request a Smoke Alarm Installation
For those in need who cannot afford new smoke alarms, Vancouver Fire has a limited supply of single-station battery-powered smoke alarms that can be installed by emergency responders between calls at no charge.
The Vancouver Fire Department cannot assist in changing or installing hard-wired smoke alarms.
Washington Carbon Monoxide Alarm Laws
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas that cannot be seen or smelled and can kill a person in minutes. Carbon monoxide can quickly build up to unsafe levels in enclosed or semi-enclosed areas. Carbon monoxide killed over 1,000 Washington residents between 1990 and 2005. In the aftermath of the December 2006 windstorm, over 300 people were treated at hospital emergency rooms for CO poisoning and eight people died. Generators in garages, or near air intakes, and use of charcoal or gas grills indoors, are common causes of CO poisoning during power outages. Fuel burning appliances, attached garages, and fireplaces are also sources of CO.
RCW 19.27.530 (2009) and Chapter 132 Laws of 2012 (SSB 6472)
Beginning January 1, 2011, state law required CO alarms to be installed in all new single-family homes and residences, including apartments, condominiums, hotels, and motels.
State law requires CO alarms be installed in existing apartments, condominiums, hotels, motels and single-family residences by January 1, 2013.
Owner-occupied single-family residences, legally occupied before July 26, 2009, are not required to have CO alarms until they are sold. The seller is required to equip the residence with CO alarms before any other person legally occupies the home. Substitute Senate Bill 6472 added CO alarms to the Purchase/Sale disclosure form in 2012.
SSB 5561, implemented as RCW 19.27.530, charged the State Building Code Council with adoption of administrative rules (WAC 51-50-0908) to implement the carbon monoxide alarm law and consider exemptions for some building classifications. Sleeping units or dwelling units in new or existing motels, hotels, college dormitories, and DSHS licensed boarding home and residential treatment facilities, which do not themselves contain a fuel-burning appliance, or a fuel-burning fireplace, or have an attached garage, but are located in a building with a fuel-burning appliance, or a fuel-burning fireplace, or an attached garage, need not be provided with CO alarms provided that:
- The sleeping unit or dwelling unit is not adjacent to any room that contains a fuel-burning appliance, a fuel-burning fireplace, or an attached garage; and
- The sleeping unit or dwelling unit is not connected by duct work or ventilation shafts with a supply or return register in the same room to any room containing a fuel-burning appliance, a fuel-burning fireplace, or to an attached garage; and
- The building has a common area CO alarm system.
Local code officials will check for compliance with the CO alarm installation requirements when a permit is required for new construction and most alterations, repairs or additions.
CO alarm installation requirements
- Alarms must be located outside of each separate sleeping area, in the immediate vicinity of the bedroom and on each level of the residence.
- Single station carbon monoxide alarms must be listed as complying with UL 2034, and installed in accordance with the code and the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Combined CO and smoke alarms are permitted.
Smoke Alarm Types and the Law
Smoke alarms are proven to save lives.
There are three types of smoke alarms, ionization, photoelectric and a combination of the two which is commonly called a “dual” detector. Look for the UL stamp on any smoke alarm.
Dual smoke alarms combine ionization and photoelectric sensor systems to enhance home safety. Recent research has shown that the standard ionization alarms have been unreliable in multiple tests of slow, smoky fires. Ionization alarm perform best in fast flaming fires. A combo unit is considered to provide greatest overall safety in either situation
Ionization smoke alarms monitor “ions” or electrically charged particles. Smoke particles change the electrical balance of the air. The alarm will sound when the change in electrical balance reaches a preset level. (IFSTA Fire and Life Safety Educator Pg 38)
Photoelectric smoke alarms use a beam of light and a light sensor. Smoke particles change the amount of light that reaches the sensor causing the alarm to sound. (IFSTA Fire and Life Safety Educator Pg 39)
Heat detectors are best used over hazards where flaming fires could be expected such as a garage or utility area. Heat detectors have a slower response than smoke detectors according to the National Fire Protection Association because heat generated by small fires tends to dissipate fairly rapidly. (NFPA Fire Protection Handbook Page 5-20, 5-58 & 59).
The law on smoke alarms
Washington State Requirements for All Homes: The Building Code has required smoke alarms/detectors in all dwellings since the 1973 edition of the code. Currently, all new dwellings are required to have hard-wired, interconnected smoke detectors with battery back-up on each level of the home as well as in each bedroom.
Washington State Requirements for Rentals: In homes and apartments used as rentals, the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) Section 212-10-045, Item 2 states: “It is the responsibility of the owner of each existing building, mobile home or factory-built housing to install smoke detection devices within each dwelling unit occupied by persons other than the owner.” Item 3 states: “It is the responsibility of the owner of each new or existing building, mobile home or factory-built housing, containing dwelling units occupied by persons other than the owner, to inspect and test all smoke detection devices at the time of vacancy and make the necessary repairs or replacements to insure that the smoke detection devices are operational prior to re-occupancy, and to instruct the occupants of the purpose, operation and maintenance of the smoke detection device(s).”
WAC 212-10-050 states: “It is the responsibility of the occupant of all new or existing dwelling units, owned by other than the occupant, to maintain and test all smoke detection devices installed within the dwelling unit by the owner. Actual costs of maintenance, repair or replacement of smoke detection devices shall be as agreed beforehand by the occupant and owner. However, failure of the owner to abide by the terms of any such agreement does not relieve the occupant to the penalty provisions of WAC 212-10-050.”
Is the smoke alarm the way everyone knows dinner is ready?
Don’t pull the battery! Smoke alarms now come with “hush” buttons that temporarily silence them until the smoke clears.
How old are your smoke alarms?
If you think they may be older than 10 years, it is time to replace them. Don’t forget how important these are. They are active while the family is asleep and are designed to wake everyone before it is too late.